Some commentators and people in the finance industry in the UK are now saying the recession is over. It is certainly true that aggressive policies to head off the collapse of the financial system did their job. It could have been so much worse.
But while the world economy – at least this month – is not in free-fall, that is not the same as recovery.
Inevitably manufacturers who have run down their inventory now need to restock, but where are the export markets that will lead to real growth?
Too many banks, businesses and consumers are still riddled with debt. The price of oil has shot up, ready to choke off growth. It looks very much as if that is being driven by speculation, rather than supply failing to meet demand.
Of course we should welcome any green shoots, but a few statistics that may or may not turn out to be blips, do not make for a recovery.
Nor will a technical end to recession mean much, if it just means that we bump along the bottom without creating jobs. And with unemployment set to grow for months to come – not just in the UK but across many of the world’s economies – it does not look like much of a recovery to the millions who fear for their jobs.
And while of course statisticians must do their job, I see a hidden agenda in much talk of recovery. If the economy is on the mend they argue, then we can go back to business as usual. There is no need for further action on jobs, no need for proper regulation, no need to crack down on the tax havens. The neoliberal model is not bust, and we don’t need to build another kind of economy.
But this argument is fatally flawed. I believe that far from being completed, our task has barely begun. Because it’s only when people are back in work – in good jobs that pay decent wages and support demand – that this crisis will finally be over. And unless we build a green economy out of the rubble of the greed economy, the next global crisis will surely be even worse.
So the choice we face is clear – to retreat into the global comfort zone of business as usual or to give globalisation a human face, and our planet a fighting chance of survival. Let’s make sure we do the right thing.
This post is taken from part of what I will be saying to the ILO Summit on the Global Jobs Crisis in Geneva later today.